Layer by Layer: Eric Standley’s CUT at Marta Hewett Gallery

February 23rd, 2014  |  Published in *, February 2014, On View

by Shawn Daniell

CUT: Windows to Eternity, the newest exhibition at the Marta Hewett Gallery, features the artwork of Eric Standley. When I first saw Standley’s artwork, I immediately thought of the matryoshka doll, commonly referred to as Russian nesting dolls. Russian nesting dolls are made of wood while Standley’s creations are made of laser cut paper, but they both have multiple layers. The beauty of the nesting dolls relies on the external, or how they’re painted and decorated. The elegance and beauty of Standley’s artwork is in the layers themselves. For me the layers go on and on forever, creating a beautiful experience akin to looking into eternity and beyond.

Eric Standley – Sebago

Standley, an Associate Professor at Virginia Tech, creates each piece through a meticulous process involving first a detailed drawn design by which he works out a complex design in which negative and positive space play together. The next step of the process involves hundreds of layers of paper that are cut with a laser. The papers range in colors; a combination consisting of creamy neutral earth tones interspersed with splashes of colors such as red, blue, green, and black. The designs are delicate, intricate, and highly ornate. They include stylistic elements from Islamic, Middle Eastern, Gothic, and Eastern architecture and theology. As someone who lived in Egypt and Italy and traveled extensively throughout Europe when I was younger, I was drawn to these decorative qualities. They spoke to me. His tranquil treasures, which remind me of stained glass windows and the arches and spires of Europe, have an inner peace about them. I can imagine myself and others losing ourselves in the layers Stradley has created from seemingly lifeless paper.

Eric Standley – Zeno of Elea

The otherworldly nature of his work brings to mind shrines and temples, places where the outside world is forced to take a day-trip. I can imagine these pieces much larger, perhaps taking on the appearance of an actual tunnel that gallery viewers could walk through and touch, although I don’t envy the work that would go into creating something that large. During the opening, Standley talked about his process and passed around several samples of his work that we could hold and page through. As I flicked through page after page of one of these elaborate creations, I could also see them as animations.

Eric Standley – Either Or Tetragon 1.2

Standley’s methods mirror how his brain works. Standley is dyslexic and describes his approach in his artist statement found online at as “constantly switching left and right hemispheres of my brain, I unconsciously separate broadly holistic observations with obsessively detailed fractions.” When I look at each piece individually and take in the complex elements, I marvel at the patience and attention to finite detail that must go into each one. Some of my favorite pieces include Either/Or Tetragon 1.2.2, Sebago, and Zeno of Elea, but all of his pieces were exquisite to take in.

Eric Standley – Detail

CUT: Windows to Eternity is on display through March 1st at the Marta Hewett Gallery. Galleries hours are Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information visit the gallery’s website at For more information about Standley and his artwork, visit his website –

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